First Impressions of Soul Sacrifice

If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree that the PlayStation Vita is a little bit lacking in terms of titles.  While a swarm of remakes and arcade-styled games offer some good hours of fun, I can’t help but wonder: where are the exclusives?  Thankfully, a new game from the mind of Keiji Inafune (Megaman, Resident Evil, Dead Rising) entitled Soul Sacrifice will soon reach the portable device – delivering some much needed originality.  Will this be another piece of magic, or will it die out, barely making a whimper?  Well, we can’t say for sure just yet, but thanks to the release of a demo on the PlayStation Network, we can go take a look at how it’s shaping up.

As the demo opens on the first scene, we witness a nameless person trapped in a prison controlled by a mad, corrupt sorcerer named Magusar.  You are that prisoner, and this is the beginning of your adventure in Soul Sacrifice. For whatever reason, you have been imprisoned here and are waiting to have your soul absorbed by this terrifying villain.  Nearby, another prisoner attempts to break free using magic, only to be quickly struck down by the evil Magusar!  As you shake off the horrific events, you find a book.  This isn’t just any book though; it is Librom, the journal of an old and powerful sorcerer whose name/gender has been lost to time.  Because of this book, players are able to customize the protagonist’s appearance, gender, voice, and name as they see fit.

It is in this book that events are told, as a framed narrative, via missions called Phantom Quests.  These are memories of the book’s writer, about his initial trials in becoming a sorcerer.  Gamers are first treated to an interesting prologue to introduce the coming level, portrayed by various images and words that appear on the page in a ghostly manner, before being given a low-down on the mission objective.  Once ready to go, gamers are sucked into the book, and take control of the forgotten sorcerer.  Your objective: kill a set number of a certain type of monster and sacrifice their remains to power your magic abilities.

Combat with these creatures is done through a form of Hack n’ Slash play, similar to that of Ragnarok Odyssey.  Before battle, gamers equip items called Sacrifices, which can be used in various ways to deal death to your foes.  Each Sacrifice has a use (such as summoning a melee weapon or casting a spell), an associated element (like ice and stone) and a cost.  For most sacrifices, your MP (magic points, one assumes) is consumed as a cost, either per use or through constant drain – yet more powerful ones demand something greater:  your life!  In these instances, your health will be used in place of your MP as the cost for tremendous power – the more almighty the spell, the greater the cost for the player.  Hopefully this mechanic is elaborated on in the main game, as the idea of risk versus reward could make for some interestingly twisted gameplay: do you risk anything and everything in search of power, or keep your weak humanity intact?

As mentioned above, players also have the ability to decide the fate of fallen monsters through another form of sacrifice.  While standing on a dead foe’s remains, players have the option to either save or sacrifice the creature – either freeing them from their twisted existence or absorbing their essence into your own.  Should you choose to save the creature, you will gain additional health or defenses. If you sacrifice the enemy, however, you’ll gain extra MP or damage – making the overall choice offense or defense.  Be careful which side you take though –  if you don’t balance your choices carefully, one side may end up degrading the other.  For example, if you focus too much on sacrificing enemies, you’ll lose health, while gaining MP.  This also works the other way: too many saves leads to increased defense, but lowered magic.  Careful players will be able to balance this properly, but it also allows certain gamers to go to extremes.  For example, I tend to play high-damage mages, who are knocked out by feather pillows, so taking a health decrease is no big deal for me.  Personally, I’m greatly looking forward to seeing this method of leveling while balancing your stats as the game progresses, and exploring just how deep its implementation will go.

While still only a demo, Soul Sacrifice is showing off some impressive visuals for a portable title.  A lot of detail is present not only within technical aspects (like detailed textures and smoothly rendered edges), but also with character design – which looks like a mash-up between DMC: Devil May Cry and SoulCalibur.  Many enemies have a sort of melting, distorted appearance to them, while both Magusar and Librom feature living eyes on their bodies, similar in fashion to the mythical sword Soul Edge from SoulCalibur.  This gives them both a twisted, all-seeing feel that makes Magusar terribly creepy, and breathes life into Librom’s character (which is augmented by the fact that he talks) – but it also gives the hint that the two are somehow related in the grand scheme of things. Overall, the visuals presented in the demo are a great sample of what is to come, and many gamers are going to be left wanting to see more!

Although my time with the Soul Sacrifice demo was brief, the couple of hours was time very well spent. From the interesting gameplay set around multiple sacrificial acts, an exciting framed narrative full of mystery, smooth graphics and crazy character design, I have high expectations for this title. Hopefully this much needed PlayStation Vita game will receive the highest honours possible for a sorcerer and not be cursed forevermore to wander the bargain bin! On the fence about adding Soul Sacrifice to your collection? Then check out the demo, available for the Vita on the PSN right now!

Soul Sacrifice launches on April 30th, 2013 for the PlayStation Vita. Stay tuned for a full review!

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April 23, 2013 - 8:40 am